Build Your Own Mac – Apple’s Key to the Future?

I saw someone over at DailyTech ask a question about building a Mac and watched him take machine gun-like shots over and over from PC and Mac fanboys for asking a stupid question. You know it’s bad when you have both sides of the computer world bashing you. Of course you can’t build your own Mac.

But, Why not?

hackintoshlogointeltransparentSince Apple’s conversion to Intel’s Core 2 system architecture, there have been people all over the world asking questions like “Can we run Windows on a Mac?” and other similar questions. The answers to these questions are becoming yes – no matter how hard Apple tries to control what you can do on their hardware.

Recently, there was a huge debate about a Mac Clone device that could run OS X and was not Apple-certified. I saw two distinct reactions from the community:

1. Because it is cheaper, it won’t work as well.
2. Finally! A cheap way to try OS X!

I have also been reading business reports showing that Apple is going to have to do some things to maintain its market after dominating the MP3 player arena. Analysts say Apple needs to do something to keep revenue coming in.

There is a simple solution that will earn Apple money, give DIY users – like many that read our website – full control over their systems, and still gives Apple control over the market itself.

Build Your Own Mac

Let’s say Apple licenses its architecture to a few hardware manufacturers. Let’s use Samsung, Corsair, Asus, Intel, Seagate, and Lite-on to develop individual hardware components which meet certain specifications, yet can be purchased individually. We can have Apple-certified hard drives, motherboards, processors, RAM, and optical drives. Then, distribute these parts through etailers like Newegg and allow them for sale to a wide audience of DIY customers at a reasonable price. The customer who wants to venture into this can get what they want – a computer that will run OS X, with the satisfaction of building it themselves and at a decent price. Apple earns revenue for sitting back and watching the market make their products more popular.

One of the prohibitive things that keeps me from buying an Apple computer is simply cost. I can’t afford to spend twice as much money on a computer that has the same functionality of a PC. Apple makes nice computers. No doubt there. But I won’t be buying one for a long time (if ever) because of the way PCs handle the market. If I can build a PC and have ownership of what I put in there, I will do it any day over purchasing a pre-built Mac. Especially when considering the price.

So, why would it hurt for Apple to allow its user’s to build their own Macs? It makes perfect sense to me that they should embrace the huge market and interest that would be generated by this business model. Hell, it might even drop the price of an Apple-built computer down to a more reasonable level by increasing Apple’s revenue elsewhere?

In closing, Apple should open up its computer hardware distribution to allow its user’s to build computers that meet their specific needs. There is a huge market that would be interested, and it might even knock down the PC market share a bit.

Would you build a Mac if you could?


  1. David Risley says:

    Only problem with this is that OS X is designed for the hardware that Apple uses. If they opened it up to any type of machine, OS X would be subject to the same driver issues and instability that can come from depending on third party drivers.

    There are benefits to having the hardware so tightly married with the OS. If you break that marriage, OS X might not look so stable.

  2. Tyler Thompson says:

    I understand where you are coming from, as drivers do cause many of the problems that Windows deals with, however I think if the process is controlled to a reasonable degree, such as specific license requirements, this issue could be worked out.

    OS X is natively Unix anyway, so I don’t see why there should be a huge problem if the hardware is developed specifically for the platform.

    Quality control can be done without the work being done in-house.

    • That’s very naive of you.

      What do you think Microsoft does now?

      There are strict rules for publishing drivers, yet many of the manufacturers don’t follow them: causing most of the BSODs, Vista problems, etc.

      What you’d end up with is getting so strict to the point where you are at now: basically using proprietary hardware from a very limited selection of parts.

  3. Boo Frickin’ Hoo!

    I can’t afford a Ferrari, but I don’t complain that they don’t make a kit so I could. Suck it up and do the best you can.

    • Anonymous says:

      You, sir, are an idiot. Us PC users are from a more open-minded background and maybe some of us would like to see some change in Apple’s business model.

      • wait a minute… “Us PC users are from a more open-minded background and maybe some of us would like to see some change in Apple’s business model.”

        I hope you’re not using the term open minded business, and yet run Windows on your computer at home. If so, I call you a hypocrite.

  4. Force Fow says:

    As much as I’d like to see apple doing something like this, I don’t see it happening in the near future.

    From all appearances, they’re comfortable with their marketshare and perfectly willing to wait on microsoft to hang themselves with their own rope, should the time come. If not, I’m sure they’ll come out with an announcement as earthshattering as the PowerPC to Intel announcement a few years back.

    Apple would be risking trouble outsourcing hardware when cries of “hey, OS X doesn’t work right on my hardware” fill the air, forums, digg, and twitter.

    Apple is very into controlling everything concerning apple products. I doubt they’d be willing to give up their self-contained line of production without a very long, serious cost-benefit analysis resulting in an extremely beneficial arrangement for apple.

    But, we could all still be surprised.

  5. I do run OS X (Tiger) on a non-Mac, a Sony UMPC, so I guess my answer is yes, I would. My main computer is a Macbook.

    The notion that Macs are twice as expensicve as comparable PCs was true maybe ten years ago, it isn’t even close now. The Psystar, for example, charges you $155 for Leopard, and doesn’t include FireWire or Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, the iLife software, etc. It also lacks the built in camera/mic and screen of an iMac. In fact, oretty much across the board the Mac is very comparable in price to PCs which really are similar.

    • Anonymous says:

      Bob, EVERYTHING Apple sells is ridiculously priced. A Core 2 Duo system of inferior speed is over $1000.

  6. Apple isn’t going to take Microsoft’s road. Never going to happen, period. Many knowledgeable people have written on this topic over the years. The subject comes up when someone, like you, want Apple to change in order to suit them. The business market’s low margin PC boxes are not making much money for those like Dell. I would guess Dell makes more of it’s hardware profit from individual and small business orders that from corporate customers. Apple’s a vertically organized company that depends on in house engineering and R & D of their hardware and software. Without it their cache of their total solution of the “ease of use” factor, necessary for consumer success, fails. They have their own chip design division! They move the technology ball forward, which is a lot different from low-balling bids on generic boxes. They’re not interested, period.

  7. Ian Goss says:

    Great writing (not).

    “… twice as much …”? Give me a break.

    Also FYI, the plural of “user” is “users”.

    And question marks go on the end of questions, not speculative statements.

    Obtain some formal writing expertise, please.

    • David Risley says:

      This is blogging, Ian. Not formal writing. Go get a life or feel free to submit some content of your own to PCMech to show us how it is done.

  8. hitchface says:

    I think it would make sense for Apple to do this. Suppose they only licensed a select few vendors to try it out, and it was wildly popular…you’d have hardware vendors trying to capture that sector of the market too, creating even more competition.

    As for the ever occurring price argument…you CAN (I say again…CAN) build a PC of equal hardware to a Mac and come out ahead. In fact…it isn’t even remotely difficult! Some people like to compare desktops to desktops, or slabs to slabs. However, the true importance is what is under the hood, not what it resembles. IF Apple were to sneak its way into the DIY market, they could find themselves in a very happy place.

  9. hitchface says:

    Matter of fact, I just priced it out. I configured a desktop computer with 2 3.16 Ghz quad core Xeon CPUs, an HD 2600 XT, 4 gigs of RAM (PC2 8500), 2 hard drives (320 and 500), full tower case, 1000W Coolermaster PSU, 2 28″ widescreen monitors, a DVD burner, cordless desktop from Logitech, Windows XP SP2 retail. Cost: 4606 bucks. Apple’s system with 20 inch monitors (not 28): 6297 bucks.

    Feel free to add over 1500 dollars worth of equipment to your PC…

  10. Anonymous says:

    There’s also something called Kalyway. It’s a cracked edition of Leopard that will run on any computer. You can just google “kalyway” for more info (I think Slashdot has some articles about it).

  11. Hitchface,
    Your comparison is flawed.

    It is well-known that if you’re after the cheapest Mac configuration, you go for third-party RAM, hard disks and monitors. If you do that, you’ll find that the base Mac Pro configuration with 2GB of RAM, 320GB HDD, DVD burner, Firewire 400 & Firewire 800, Full tower, 32bit/64bit Mac OS X, iLife 08, keyboard and mouse costs $2799. That leaves you almost 2 grand to buy 2GB of RAM, a 500GB HD & a couple of 28″ screens to match your home-built on price.

    So $130 for 2GB of PC2 8500 RAM, $110 for a 500GB HD and $500 each for 2 x 28″ Widescreen LCD monitors and the Mac Pro comes in at around $4,040 or $566 cheaper than your home-built and of course you get a far better engineered machined Aluminium case with 4 cable-free drive bays, best of breed cooling architecture etc.

    I think you’ve disproved your own argument.

    You’ll also find that If you compare the All-in-One Dell or Gateway or Sony Vaio against the iMac, you would find the Mac is also cheaper as several publications including Computerworld have demonstrated in the last year. Likewise, if you compare Apple’s laptops against similarly configured PC laptops you will also be surprised at the price parity.


  12. Whoops, the comment above showing the Mac Pro with 3rd party RAM, HDD and monitors is actually cheaper than htichface’s home-built was from me (Martin Hill) and meant to be addressed to Hitchface.


  13. The idea of a DIY Mac is an interesting one. Having select third party hardware “Apple Certified” would be the way to go IF they decided to do this. It does, however, have the risk of turning into a slippery slop though.

    Spend a few moments reading any tech related sites and you will soon see that the people who would be most interested in DIY Macs would not be satisfied with limited choice of “certified” hardware. “I want THIS hard drive” or “I need THAT motherboard” or “Why can’t I use THIS video card” would ring out across the land.

    Another factor Apple would need to take into account are the backend support costs, particularly, but not limited to, tech support. It can sometimes spiral out of control…increased product complexity means higher support costs which means need for more sales/revenue which means increased marketing/R&D/Sales/back office costs which may mean increased volume which means increased support costs…etc.

    Should Apple do this? I don’t think so. Apple has done a pretty good job of being the company with innovative, “cool” and niche products. When they can turn a niche into mainstream (ipod) good things happen. This innovation does not come from producing toasters. How often do you link “innovation” with Dell or HP? Ultimately, though, the decision will come from Apple shareholders…not geeks, tech bloggers or, dare I say it, Steve himself.

    Anyways…have rambled on long enough.

  14. Hmm, sorry to post again. I just realised hitchface specced up two 3.1GHz Quad-core Xeons compared to the two 2.8GHz Quad-core Xeons in the Mac Pro I specced up. Optioning in a pair of 3GHz Quad Xeons makes the Mac Pro $234 or 5% more expensive than his home-built – not a bad trade-off considering the quality and integration of the Apple kit and significantly less than the $1500+ disparity hitchface cited earlier.

    Basically, these sorts of comparisons put the lie to the “2 times as expensive” claims made in the article when comparing similarly specced gear.

    Now the real situation where Apple misses out is a low-priced, lower-performance, headless Mac configuration with a couple of PCI/AGP slots for upgradable video cards for the gamers for whom a Mac Pro is too expensive and an iMac or Mac Mini is not upgradeable enough. If this is the sort of box you’re after, then yes, I’d agree, Apple doesn’t have a model suitable for you.


  15. Martin:
    “Now the real situation where Apple misses out is a low-priced, lower-performance, headless Mac configuration with a couple of PCI/AGP slots for upgradable video cards for the gamers for whom a Mac Pro is too expensive and an iMac or Mac Mini is not upgradeable enough. If this is the sort of box you’re after, then yes, I’d agree, Apple doesn’t have a model suitable for you.”

    Precisely. Either Apple needs to develop a mid-range product or open up the market some. Ipods won’t last Apple forever.

    In the business world, selling more of a product at a lower price actually has a significant impact on revenue.

    I am always surprised by those who slam people who are closed minded toward this issue. Seriously, it is an option Apple has – one that would give it a market share to compete on a level with Microsoft. Maybe we’ll have a choice at a decent price for different Operating Systems. Give M$ a little nudge to get back to innovation.

  16. I just started using a Mac September 2007. In comparison to the PC’s my friends own, have owned and will be owning, Apple is doing what they do right!

  17. some could argue that Apple isn’t trying to compete with Microsoft. Apple is a hardware company that competes with the likes of Dell, HP, etc. The competition with MS is a by-product of them using OS X to sell more hardware…as opposed to using great hardware to sell more copies of OS X.

    DIY hardware works great for MS because they don’t give two shites what hardware you have as long as you keep shelling out $s for Windows, Office, Exchange, etc. Letting people “roll your own Mac” would cut into the core of Apple’s business…get it? Apple. Core. Ah, nevermind 🙂

  18. hitchface says:

    If you are comparing prices of Macs vs PCs, you HAVE to go with Mac parts vs PC parts. Off of the website, ordering Mac only parts, it IS that much more expensive. Showing me that you can drop the price by getting parts from a different vendor only proves my point, not yours.

    • hitchface – who says you have to get your memory and HDDs etc from Apple? Just like cars, you can go genuine or non-genuine for all your extras. There is no such thing as a “Mac-only” Seagate HDD or a “Mac-only” Samsung DIMM. There is no law that says you have to buy all these extras from Apple.

      What we have demonstrated is that optional extras purchased from the Apple Store are expensive, but that Macs themselves are NOT expensive.

      This is a very important distinction as it means that getting 3rd party peripherals to keep the cost of an entire Mac system down shows that Apple IS competitive in the spaces they choose to compete in for those who would normally source all their own parts when building a DIY PC.

      The important fact is that the standard Mac configurations (before you option them up) are NOT twice as expensive as your similarly configured DIY box. If you are happy with a particular form factor that Apple makes (eg the dual quad core Xeon box you put forward as an example), then price is not a valid argument you can make against Apple if you’re happy getting 3rd party peripherals (which is obviously the case as your preferred alternative is entirely 3rd party components).

      Now if instead you were arguing that Apple don’t make the particular base configuration/form factor that you want such as a UMPC or a single dual-core headless box with a couple of PCI/AGP slots, then I’d agree with you.


  19. Hi Guys & Gals,

    Build Your Own Mac – Apple’s Key to the Future?

    Very interesting article if it can materialize, we are the first ones to DIY and market it to the world. There is a big need for something like this out there in the world. We attempted to DIY notebooks of Common Building Blocks – Verified by Intel (CBB VBI) for the past 3 years and we failed primarily due to lack of right support from Intel and their louzy staff in the Middle East.

    More info can be had from us directly by writing to us to [email protected]

    We are now serious with this Mac DIY project if any of you guys and gals out there are ready to join hands with us, as we can flood the world with this rival for Microsoft and Intel too. May be we can use AMD, Cyrix or some other processors out there to tell these IT giants who do not make budget notebooks or computers including the operating systems to run them.

    Well done David Risley. Congrats!!!

    Please comment. Jan & John.

  20. Couldn’t agree more!

    Never thought I’d see the day — with OS X, Apple having switched to Intel, and the farse that is Vista — I find myself owning four apple devices (two macmini HTPCs, macbook, plus an iPhone.

    Sadly, my primary PC runs Windows (IT Consultant).

    I’d very much like to run OS X on my custom built system, which is easily 25% of an equivalently spec’ed Mac Pro.

    While Apple computers are far more reachable than in the past, MacMini or Macbook 13″ for $1000, PC world equivalent systems can be had for half as much, be it top tier (Dell) or custom build (NewEgg).

    How is it people are arguing the 50% (or more) Apple premium?!?

    That aside, were Apple to allow select off-the-shelf hardware, I expect their market share could grow in HUGE numbers, with LITTLE to no affect on reliability/support. That’s just my opinion. having worked int he industry for the last ten years. : )

    Here’s hoping the switch to intel is not the only big step forward from Apple.

  21. airchinapilot says:

    There is no mid-range between the “Ferrari” high end Mac Pro and the handicapped “Bug” of the iMacs. I want the “Corolla” version. It does not matter to me if the high end Mac is competitive with the equivalent high end PC because I would never build that equivalent PC. If Apple would just put in a mid-range model that would seriously entice me to switching.

  22. hitchface says:


    My point is that if you are comparing a Mac vs a PC, you CANNOT compare prices of a Mac with PC parts against a PC with PC parts. It is like me saying PCs are more expensive, and then backing up my argument by shoving a bunch of Mac parts in there.

    Mac ? the other guys (PC vendors). Therefore, you can’t try and equate prices by sliding into the other guy’s camp and using his parts.

    • Hitchface, you are the one who is shoving expensive optional extras from a particular supplier in to artificially sustain your argument.

      Apple uses the same “PC parts” as everyone else already. You’re muddying the waters by adding a stack of optional extras which happen to cost more when bought from Apple than EXACTLY the same RAM or HDD bought from a cheaper source.

      Where you get your extra RAM or HDD or LCD screen from is neither here nor there. The thing that you can’t DIY is the basic Mac case, power supply and motherboard etc. That is what this article is arguing should be opened up to DIY builders because all the optional extras are ALREADY available DIY for Mac buyers.

      Again, lack of other form factors *is* a valid argument for a totally DIY Mac, but unlike years ago, the *price* of a standard Mac config vs a DIY box with the same config is not a valid argument. An honest comparison clearly demonstrates that the Mac is not twice the price of a PC with the same components (or even $1500 more as you argue).


  23. hitchface says:

    If Apple uses the same parts as everyone else, then why A) do they cost so much more to upgrade to and B) is it an actual challenge to get OS X to run on a DIY machine?

    They charge you WELL over the regular retail price to get your CPUs and all of the other components that you might normally find on Newegg or NCIX. How is that not price gouging?

  24. hitchface, as I’ve previously stated, yes, Apple charges a lot more for extra RAM and HDD if you buy them from Apple. That’s how car manufacturers also boost their margins – charge a competitive price for the standard model but then charge big fat margins for all the “genuine extras” for those who don’t mind paying extra to get everything from the one place. However, who cares – I repeat again: you DON’T have to buy these bits from Apple.

    This discussion is about how much Macs themselves cost, not the extras which anyone is free to source elsewhere. The bits a DIY builder can’t buy elsewhere (case, motherboard etc) are thankfully NOT over-priced but on the contrary can easily be demonstrated to be very competitive as our little comparison exercise has demonstrated.

    Come on, as a DIY builder you sourced all the bits for your DIY box yourself – why the resistance against the idea that a comparable Mac might be a similar price if you are willing to shop around for the extras?

    The myth that Macs are twice as expensive as PCs is just that – a myth – for anyone sensible enough to shop around for the extras. I should probably stop responding now – hopefully I’ve made a good case for this for those who are honestly interested.


  25. I have installed Mac OS X Leopard on a standard eMachine T2984. This is no big feat. The new Macs are PC CLONES running Intel CPU’s and EFI instead of a BIOS.

    I have also taken a MacBook Pro, purchased 2/2007, completely formated the hard drive and installed WindowsXP. The MacBook Pro does not have a BIOS either, and XP ran fine on it. I did use a boot camp driver cd, but formatting and partitioning was all done within the XP installation.

    Apple will always be under Microsoft, simply because they in there own little world. I love OS X, but I won’t pay the price a second time…… apple’s hardware is grossly over priced.

  26. Culprititus says:

    The low cost of 3rd party products compatible with MAC hardware are a result of the open-PC hardware standards Apple has begrudgingly had to adopt to continue to scale and profit. The artificial chaining together of OS and hardware allows Apple to say how great their products are compared to XYZ budget PC. Apple wants to retain the benefits of a locked/controlled hardware environment while enjoying the economies of scale and standards that grew out of the Wintel marketplace.

    Hopefully Linux/Google/web apps or virtualization will make the OS part of the equation no longer an issue in another couple of years. Stylish MAC hardware will then compete with the likes everything else.

  27. Hitch…
    You’re an idiot. Seriously. We are talking about server/workstation grade hardware. You can’t run a xeon with anything but FBDIMM so your PC8500 won’t work. Oh, and you picked the wrong Xeon CPU’s (the 3.18 is FSB 1333, the Mac Pro is using newer FSB 1600). Oh, and you forgot the motherboard. The motherboard is $500 by it self. Welcome to the world of expensive hardware.

    Here is a _real_ comparison of a home built Mac Pro, and an actual Mac Pro:

    Notice the difference, ~ $250 (the cost of the extra 2g of ram in the home built;)

    Apple is hardware vendor. Like all hardware vendors, including Dell, HP, Gateway, Sun, EMC, etc they screw their customers on upgrades. No one complains when these other companies do it, why do they bitch so much about Apple?

  28. Oh, and before anyone calls me an “apple fanboy” or some such… I’m running Leopard on my OC’d Q6600, not a Mac.

  29. If you want to do it yourself, you deserve to be stuck with windows.

  30. hitchface says:


    Before you spout off about who is being an idiot, check yourself. 4 gigs of FBDIMM ram STILL only costs about 200 bucks, and the CPU difference in price is negligible at best. Even though I did forget the motherboard, 500 dollars is selective. I found Intel boards down to $300, if we wanna talk specifics.

    I’m not talking about Dell or HP…everyone knows OEM vendors rip you off. However, Apple does it more than others. The price of SSDs in their machines already cost 300 dollars more than Dell’s does! I’m talking about BUILDING YOUR OWN (hence, DIY) computer. The parts CAN be had for cheaper.

  31. No, actually they can’t be had cheaper. I proved that with my list of all the parts to build the machine. Can POS hardware be found cheaper? Sure, of course it can, but you get what you pay for.

    Do you want PCI-e 2.0? Do you want a FSB of 800 mhtz? Do you want more than one x16 PCI-e slot? Ok, so find me a board with all of those (all of which the apple board has) for under $500.

    For that matter, give me a FULL list of your parts which will be as powerful as the spec’ed out Apple and is significantly cheaper.


  32. It is entirely possible–and quite easy at that–to build your own mac these days (though note, it is illegal due to a violation of Apple’s license). There are several hacked editions of OS X that allow them to be installed on a non-Apple computer. While drivers are limited, it works as long as you have the right hardware. Some of them even support AMD processors.

  33. I can get a board for that with all the extras and built to oc if you pleas for under three hundred with sli.
    Hech my regular pc is a gigabyte socket 775 and is rated at 4.5 with win but when it comes to overclocking without having to do oyher than air-even in a 90 degree day without ac is incredable at 4.08 gigahertz.
    only the aftermarket boards will give what is needed. socket 1333 with an soon to be released i7 will cost about he same but is so much faster and very solid.

  34. oh by the way with windows 7 is fantastic, no crash or need to restart for 9 months now and with it at release canidate is the most solid windows ever!!!!!!!
    add the i7 and see ya.

  35. ok you know what hey. I agree completely with the author. I am running an Ipc. Intel core 2 quad with 4 gigs of ram etc ASUS mother board. Sure it was a bit of a hack to get it running, but well worth it. I am strongly considdering buying a mac, but you know what its just not worth the cash layout. You guys think you have it bad try buy one in south africa. $2297 for an entry level Imac. you could pay almost that for the I7. Any way point is I have a entry level 8 series nvidia card runs two monitors dead normal box, and I have to admit its magic. I work with adobe photoshop flash dreamweaver flex builder and can have them all running at the same time while running Bind Tomcat mysql virtualbox with xp and a dedicated gig of ram to run visual studio all at once without my pc failing. So Kevin please stop talking crap.

  36. NOOOOOO!!!!!!!

Speak Your Mind